Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The End of National Poetry Month

I’m always a little sad to see National Poetry Month come to an end, but here we are on April 30th. Like the time lilacs are in bloom, NPM never seems quite long enough. My sincerest thanks go to all of you who joined the celebration (as readers and as writers) on The Music In It, and a big THANK YOU to readers who posted poems and/or shared comments.

Special thanks and appreciation go to Basil Rouskas who, for the second year in a row, posted a poem every day and is the recipient of The Music In It National Poetry Month Award. Bravo, Basil!

Regular prompt posting will resume on Saturday, May 4th. In the meantime, here’s a wonderful  piece by poet Michael T. Young that takes a lighthearted look at the (sometimes agonizing) process of writing a poem. (I certainly identified with it and suspect that you will too!)

How a Poem is Written
by Michael T. Young
  1. A lot of words are scattered on a page.
  2. Unnecessary abstractions are reworked into images.
  3. Unnecessary images are struck out.
  4. Some commas are inserted, an M-dash and a semi-colon.
  5. Some long sentences are shortened.
  6. Some short sentences stretched out.
  7. Two words from the first line are brought to the second line.
  8. One word from the fifth line is brought to the sixth line.
  9. Some commas are removed and the semi-colon changed to a period.
  10. The short sentences that were stretched out are shortened again.
  11. The long sentences that were shortened are lengthened again.
  12. The last line is made the penultimate line and a new line written for conclusion. 
  13. The two words brought to the second line are deleted, requiring a new verb and relineation of lines 2 through 8.
  14. A new image inserted in line 13 pushes three words to line 14 requiring relineation of lines 15 to 20.
  15. 2 of the long sentences that were shortened and then lengthened are shortened again.
  16. Instead of lines with roughly ten syllables per line, everything is reorganized to have roughly six or  seven syllables per line.
  17. Realizing that was a bad idea, it’s all reorganized so every line is roughly fifteen syllables per line.
  18. Realizing that was a bad idea, it’s all reorganized back to roughly ten syllables per line.
  19. A day is spent wondering if it should be structured in blank verse as opposed to free verse.
  20. Remove all the punctuation.
  21. Change the title five times over a day.
  22. Put all the punctuation back in except for the M-dash.
  23. Insert some place names for local feel.
  24. Remove all but one place name because they seem clunky.
  25. Strike out everything from the first line to the penultimate line.
  26. Take the last line, make it the first line, and begin writing the poem.

A Note from Michael Young: I find that sometimes frustration can work itself to such a pitch that it ruptures into a moment of clarity.  Such was the source of this rant-like piece. I had been working every day on a single poem for about 2 months and felt no closer to getting it right. I don’t mind working on a poem for a long time, even years, as long as I have a sense that I’m getting a syllable closer to the mark. But when it seems there’s no progress, not even inching toward the invisible mark after endless revisions, well, that simply maddens me. Perhaps that’s why I have a somewhat obsessive way of writing; I can rarely stop thinking about a poem until it’s finished or I tear myself from it to retain my sanity. These are the poems that often, for me, become completely morphed in later years as the poem documented in this piece: a poem transformed into something completely unintended and, since writing is an act of discovery, better than one could ever intend. 

Please be sure to visit Michael online at www.michaeltyoung.com and at his blog (The Inner Music) http://inermusic.blogspot.com/


  1. CONGRATULATIONS, Basil! I'm so glad Adele has given you an award! In fact, congrats to all who posted poems – Risa, Jago, Alison – and all the readers who posted comments. There was a lot of wonderful sharing throughout April!

    Michael Young, I love your poetry writing process! Thanks so much for the smiles!

    1. Thanks, Jamie, and always thanks for your "participation" in the blog!

    2. Adele! I forgot to mention how adorable your little Chaucer is. He looks so sweet in the picture with your blue & white china and those gorgeous lilacs!

  2. Máire Ó Cathail (Ireland)April 30, 2013 at 9:59 AM

    Congratulations, Basil, and thank you for all the wonderful poems!

    Thank you, Adele, for making it all happen.

    And, thank you to Michael T. Young. This is a hoot, most enjoyable. Okay if I share it with some friends and students here in ireland?

    Máire Ó Cathail (Ireland)

    1. Thank you, Maire. Please feel free to share it with friends and students. Enjoy.


    2. Máire Ó Cathail (Ireland)April 30, 2013 at 4:53 PM

      Thanks so much for your kind permission, Michael!

    3. Thanks, Maire, for your kind words!

    4. Máire Ó Cathail (Ireland)May 3, 2013 at 6:56 AM

      Michael, I shared it with one of the writing groups yesterday and everyone loved it. Thanks again!

      Máire Ó Cathail (Ireland)

  3. Michael Young: I have both of your books. Brilliant writing!

    I've been working in Europe through much of April, and I'm just catching up on all the poems and posts for National Poetry Month. This blog is always great!

    1. Thank you, Rich. That is very kind.

      I hope your time in Europe has been inspiring.


    2. Thanks for the kinds words, Rich. I hope your work in Europe was enjoyable.

  4. Great stuff, Michael, and congratulations to Basil. A great month of poetry and sharing! Thanks, Adele.

  5. Bravo Basil, congratulations!
    And thanks to Adele.
    Really beautiful your poem, Michael. Okay if I translate in italian it for my blog?

    Ciao a tutti

    1. Jago, I'll send your request on to Michael just in case he doesn't check back here.

      Thank you for being such a vital part of this blog community.

    2. Thank you, Jago. That is very kind of you. Yes, certainly feel free to translate it and post it on your blog. That would be lovely. I sent you a separate e-mail also.

  6. This is really great. Thanks, Michael.

    And congratulations to Basil - a poem a day is an amazing accomplishment, especially under the circumstances. I hope your recovery is quick and complete.

  7. Thanks , Michael.
    Adele, your blog is a volcano! And Basil?!

    Ancora ciao da Roma.

    1. Jago, I love your metaphor! Let's call the blog Mt. Vesuvius!

      Seriously, thank you for being so much a part of the blog. Your inputs are wonderful!

  8. Michael's poem rang loud chimes with me - and a poem is never finished - well, I suppose death intervenes at some point, making the last version the definitive one. This reminded me of a much more frivolous effort of my own to describe the process:

    A little Recipe

    Take a sackful of words
    Throw them into a basin with a heap of imagination
    Stir them around with grammatical precision
    Add a drumroll of rhythm

    Insert a soupçon of symmetry and a trace of mystery
    Concoct a metaphor or two to confuse
    Beat them together with a modicum of skill

    Prepare a piece of clean new paper
    Spread the mixture with a light hand
    Allow to stew a little, rise a lot
    Rest overnight before adding a few second thoughts
    Eliminate drips and tidy the kitchen
    Bake in the cauldron of poetry
    Serve with humility.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing, vivinfrance! Wonderful, and I really love the last line.

    2. vivinfrance, this is a wonderful poem! Thank you for sharing it with us!

    3. Thank you for this, Vivinfrance. I too like the last line.